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Low-valent main-group systems for reversible small molecule activation


Catalysis is a pivotal technology in today’s society, enabling efficient access to complex molecular architectures. Metal-catalysed processes such as Pd-catalysed cross couplings or olefin metathesis are fundamental in synthetic and industrial chemistry. Many of these processes use scarce (and correspondingly expensive) metals. The scarcity of these metals - and the potential for geopolitical instabilities in their supply - has prompted the EU and national governments to call for efforts to find alternative technologies that decrease our reliance on these rare resources. In the search for replacements for metal catalysts, low-valent compounds of the heavier p-block elements present a potential solution. This proposal seeks to develop the recent breakthroughs in small molecule activation by low-valent main group species, providing the ‘building blocks’ of reactivity for future transition-metal style catalysis by these compounds.
I propose a research programme which targets the systematic synthesis of unsaturated main group compounds that can mimic the reactivity of transition metals. Novel compounds possessing closely-spaced frontier orbitals will be prepared. Currently unknown species containing Al=Al and P=B double bonds will be targeted, because of their expected high reactivity with small molecules. The reactivity of these compounds with H2, CO, CO2, alkenes and alkynes will be probed. The systems are designed to exhibit reversible reactivity.
Requested in support of my appointment for a five year term as a Chancellor’s Fellow in the School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, the award of a Marie Curie CIG would provide resources ensuring a strong start to my career. In particular, the grant would fund one PhD student and facilitate the work of a second, funded by Edinburgh. Funds are also allocated to consumables, equipment, and travel to enable dissemination of results, and the initiation of collaborations allowing knowledge transfer.

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Old College, South Bridge
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 100 000
Administrative Contact
Angela Noble (Ms.)